Delayed forgiveness, resentment and bitterness
Forgiveness is a command given in the Bible and many Christians largely agree that it constitutes the Christian way of life. Living in a fallen world means crossing paths with the fallen human race and often times being rubbed wrongly which necessitates forgiveness. The Lord Jesus Himself has demonstrated forgiveness by pardoning our iniquity through His death on the cross. In the same manner, He commands us to forgive and bear with one another as I wrote here.
But are our hearts always ready and willing to forgive? At least not my heart. When the rubber meets the road, we take the position of a victim and sometimes can’t forgive even when an apology is made. The offense made feels so great that a simple apology cannot make a restitution. We, therefore, hesitate to extend grace, unbeknownst to us that the more we delay in obeying God’s command to forgive the more we harbor bitterness and resentment, hence making the chances for reconciliation slim.
We are rarely honest enough to admit that it is the pride within us that causes us to be slow to forgive. It’s quicker and easier to point the error of our offender but oblivious of the sin in us that contributed to and heightened the conflict. We are speck doctors while still log patients.
I have seen it in my own heart a couple of times. When someone offends me, I’m quick to take the position of the prosecutor and pass judgment. Most times this has given birth to a sinful reaction that has only magnified the conflict and since I proudly took the place of a victim, I begrudge my offenders because ‘how could they have done that to me’? At the same time, my self-righteousness blinds me from seeing that I am capable of similar sins.
My fiance says something profound – ‘in every conflict, there is a sin I have contributed, and if I find no fault in myself during a conflict, let my sin be that I think I’m not at fault.’ You see, we are desperately sinful. Our best actions are more often than not clothed in self-righteousness. The problem is that just like Adam and Eve we shift blame. We are quick to point a finger and blame the circumstance, the person or the gift God has given us.
Don’t we all labor to ask our offenders questions not because we want them to explain their wrong but because we have already passed judgment on their motives and actions, and therefore we just want them to see how faulty they are?
We labor to quickly convince people that God really knows that we are not guilty but if He were to reveal to us our hearts we would drop the stones we had lifted against our offenders in shame. Our hearts are filled with self-righteousness and judgment.
As Dave Harvey writes in His book When Sinners Say I Do, it would serve us better to suspect ourselves first in every conflict situation. Suspect yourself as the culprit of the conflict. You undoubtedly contributed to it. This is Paul’s attitude when he says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Suspicion of ourselves will lead us to inspect ourselves first and not scrutinizing the other person’s actions and motives through the Pharisees’ eye.
What to do? Having suspected ourselves first and taken a scrutiny to our hearts, let us be quick to admit that though we are Christians we err because of our indwelling sin. This realization should reveal our imperfection and make us run to the cross where the mercy of God is revealed to the rebels and sons of disobedience. This same mercy that we have received is to be extended to those who wrong us in the same measure God has shown it to us. God has forgiven the inexcusable in us, will we not forgive the excusable in our neighbors?
God is the most offended party in any conflict, regardless of how hurt you may feel, and having a heavenly perspective on it will help us be more Christlike by forgiving. Consider what He does to us who offend Him – He is more willing to forgive than we are to sin, So as God in Christ has forgiven us forgive one another.
We should, therefore, be more willing to forgive. Let us beware of resentment and bitterness that results from unforgiveness. This, as we have seen, is only an expression of pride within us. I’m not oblivious of the fact that the weight of the offenses may vary. But would the memory of Christ’s forgiveness of our sin bring us to a readiness to forgive that trusts Christ for the healing from the hurt?
Indeed, we patiently wait for the day when all things will be made new. There will be no more pain, sorrow or hurt. We too, who have believed in the one who makes all things new, will be made perfect. We will not have to deal with hurt from fellow dear brothers. Our tears from all our pain here in the world shall be wiped by our Savior.